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‘Listen to your staff: no institution runs without the team behind it’

‘Listen to your staff: no institution runs without the team behind it’
By Gemma Collins
2 May 2019

The annual General Practice Awards – organised by Healthcare Leader publisher Cogora – recognises achievement, initiative and service excellence across primary care.

With just under a month remaining to submit entries for the 2019 awards – which remain open until 31 May, we continue our series of profiling the 2018 awards winners.

Helen Herbert, business manager at The Abbeyview Surgery in Lincolnshire – which won the Collaboration with Patients and Other Providers award last year – explains how the practice is improving patient care, expanding the scope of its services and supporting and encouraging its team.

Q How does the Abbeyview Surgery team feel about winning this award?

In 2011, the practice introduced a new management structure.  From a position of poor satisfaction and struggling to keep up with demand, we have successfully increased communication with patients, [as well as their] perception of the practice.

[We have also] improved access, maintained and enhanced quality and set up a system to methodically review and improve every service delivered by the team.

It has been a difficult and rewarding journey and we are all extremely proud of this recognition. It is testament to our wonderful team and supportive patient participation group (PPG).

Q Why do you think the judges picked the practice as the winner?

We have an exceptionally good relationship with our PPG. The PPG is considered part of our extended team and works with the practice to improve services, provide educational events, run surveys and offer support. Their opinion is sought after and valued and they bring additional knowledge and expertise into the mix.

We are also developing strong relationships with local support groups and charities, and our patients are seeing the benefits. So are our doctors, who are seeing fewer patients at crisis point as the patients receive proactive pre-emptive support.

Q Are there any particular challenges you have had to overcome at Abbeyview?

Not enough appointments, resulting in poor patient perception of the practice, was a major issue.  With the support of our PPG, we altered our appointment system to create additional access, extend choice and add clinical time.

This was achieved by instigating a GP-led callback system that introduced an additional 80+ appointments per week, and replacing a part-time GP with a full-time clinical practitioner – adding around 45 appointments per week.

It was also achieved through streamlined clinics – saving 10 hours a week – ad hoc walk-in clinics to cope with fluctuations in demand and additional Saturday clinics to provide working patients with access to smears tests, asthma checks, NHS health checks, and so on.

We are not perfect, but patient satisfaction is now at an all-time high.

Q Which practice initiatives are you most proud of?  

We work extremely hard with multiple external organisation to offer more holistic care for our patients, including improvements to services for carers and for patients with dementia, diabetes, respiratory disease, bowel disorders, hypertension and other conditions.

There is no one service we can single out – we are pleased with the improvements we have made to the quality of care for all our patients.

Q Do we need more awards like the General Practice Awards, recognising achievement and innovation in the NHS?

Absolutely. They are an opportunity to share ideas and learn from other teams how they are improving services in their area, as well as being a valuable opportunity for teams to have their own achievements recognised and celebrate together.

Q How is the Abbeyview team driving change in primary care?

Our CCG is shadowing our children’s champion team to learn from the work we are doing to improve services at the practice, and our model of care for dementia patients is being shared with other practices.

In partnership with our PPG we have supported Every-One (formerly Lincolnshire Carers and Young Carers Partnership) to develop the Lincolnshire Carers Quality Award, which is being rolled out across the county. We are just doing our best to improve outcomes and support for our patients.

Q What current and upcoming Abbeyview projects are you most excited about?

We are constantly seeking to improve the quality of services available to our patients and currently have two projects underway hat I hope will have a real impact.

Working in collaboration with two local charities, Tonic Health and Crowland Cares, we are striving to improve the support for dementia patients and their carers.

A dementia café recently opened at the practice, and we are hopeful a dementia day service will follow within a year.

This service will see our dementia and carer champions and our care co-ordinator provide pre-emptive support and advice, rather than there being a reactive demand for GP appointments when the carer or patient is in crisis.

Q How would you define great leadership?

It doesn’t matter how big the institution, nothing runs without the team behind it. Listen to your staff and hear what matters to them. Give them the tools to make a difference – such as training and support – and changes for the better will follow naturally.

We have receptionists supporting carers, dispensers and nurses leading changes to children’s services, healthcare assistants driving support for dementia patients and our PPG taking charge of patient communication and surveys.

Regardless of the role they were originally employed to do; the people you lead have unique life experiences and are passionate about different things. Recognising that is a great resource, and harnessing it is a catalyst for change.

Q What does the long-term plan mean for general practice?

With increased investment into the primary care infrastructure and more support from specialists, such as pharmacists, community mental health workers and extended scope physiotherapists, the outlook for general practice looks promising.

At Abbeyview, we already work closely with multiple [allied health professionals], local support groups and our PPG. We are following the ethos of the long-term plan on a microscale – and seeing the sustainable benefits.

Q Which are the most pressing issues currently facing primary care?

Recruitment, retention and underfunding are the most challenging issues. Primary care is the foundation of our NHS.  We need to make it the most attractive field to work in to get the best value outcome for patient care.

The Collaboration with Patients and Other Providers award was sponsored by NHS England.

The 2019 General Practice Awards will be held at the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge hotel in London. For information about the event, including how to enter, see

Entries for the 2019 General Practice Awards close on 31 May.

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